Former Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) was sentenced to a 30-month prison term today, a penalty that is “stiffer than the 27 months recommended by prosecutors.” Ney pleaded guilty last October “to making false statements and conspiracy to commit fraud” as part of the Abramoff influence-peddling scandal. Judge Huvelle explained to Ney why she delivered the tough sentence: “As a member of Congress, you had the responsibility, above all else really, to set an example and uphold the law.”
According to Rep. John Dingell (D-Car companies) a special congressional committee on climate change would be “as relevant and useful as feathers on a fish.” Fish, obviously, don’t have feathers but it’s not clear to me that this is because fish feathers would be irrelevant or useless. Scales, after all, are hardly necessary for the aquatic lifestyle as the many familiar examples of sea-faring mammals — whales, dolphins, seals — will clarify. And, of course, the penguin is a sort-of “feathered fish,” a bird extremely well-designed for swimming. Dingell can also refer to the case of the duck, the swan, etc.
Meaningful short-term action on climate change doesn’t appear to be forthcoming, but the point here is that it’ll never be forthcoming if Dingell gets his way. The committee Nancy Pelosi is proposing would have the authority to call and hold hearings and thus possibly (let’s be optimistic) further build public support for action.
New Republic editor in chief Martin Peretz offers us a preview of the remix:
By the way, next week or the week after, we are running an article by Oren and Yossi Klein Halevi on Iran’s nuclear capacity, and what should be done about it. We already know what Clinton thinks should be done: wear a yellow ribbon.
Gee, what could Oren and Halevi possibly propose in the pages of The New Republic? Will it be that Israel should bomb with America’s diplomatic support, or that America should bomb ourselves? I expect a “ruthlessly serious” proposal one way or the other. Meanwhile, why are hawkish American magazines literally outsourcing their Iran coverage to Israeli pundits? It’s like Pat Buchanan is secretly controlling their editors’ minds or something.
This morning, Fox News featured a segment highlighting a right-wing report that Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) attended an Islamic “madrassa” school as a 6-year-old child.
Fox & Friends host Steve Doocy pointed out that madrassas are “financed by Saudis” and “teach this Wahhabism which pretty much hates us,” then declared, “The big question is: was that on the curriculum back then?” Later, a caller to the show questioned whether Obama’s schooling means that “maybe he doesn’t consider terrorists the enemy.” Fox anchor Brian Kilmeade responded, “Well, we’ll see about that.”
The Fox hosts failed to correct the false claim that Obama is Muslim. One caller, referring to Obama, said, “I think a Muslim would be fine in the presidency, better than Hillary. At least you know what the Muslims are up to.” Anchor Gretchen Carlson responded, “We want to be clear, too, that this isn’t all Muslims, of course, we would only be concerned about the kind that want to blow us up.” Obama is Christian, a member of Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ since 1988. Watch it:
As a child, Obama spent four years in Indonesia with his step-father, a non-practicing Muslim, and his mother. Between ages 6 and 8, Obama attended a local Muslim school in Jakarta; after that, he was enrolled in a Roman Catholic school. In his book Dreams Of My Father (p.142), Obama writes:
In Indonesia, I’d spent 2 years at a Muslim school, 2 years at a Catholic school. In the Muslim school, the teacher wrote to tell mother I made faces during Koranic studies. In the Catholic school, when it came time to pray, I’d pretend to close my eyes, then peek around the room. Nothing happened. No angels descended.
In his more recent book, The Audacity of Hope, Obama writes (p.274), “Without the money to go to the international school that most expatriate children attended, I went to local Indonesian schools and ran the streets with the children of farmers, servants, tailors, and clerks.”
Transcript: Read more
Following the guidelines Congress set down in the Military Commissions Act late last year, the Pentagon yesterday unveiled new rules for detainee trials “that could allow terror suspects to be convicted and perhaps executed using hearsay testimony and coerced statements.”
At a Pentagon briefing, Dan Dell’Orto, deputy to the Defense Department’s top counsel, said the new rules will “afford all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized people.” Dell’Orto’s view is not shared throughout the Pentagon’s counsels office. Col. Dwight H. Sullivan, the Chief Defense Counsel in the Office of Military Commissions, issued a statement yesterday criticizing the new rules:
The rules appear carefully crafted to ensure than an accused can be convicted — and possibly executed — based on nothing but a coerced confession. The rules would allow an accused to be executed based on nothing but hearsay.
The rules’ broad protections for classified information threaten to swallow everything. These rules are particularly scary coming in the wake of new Guant¡namo classification guidelines that make even the prisoners’ own name classified as ‘SECRET.’
The rules violate the principle that the jury shouldn’t be allowed to see anything that the defendant can’t see. Witnesses can be shielded so that the defendant can’t see them, but the jury can.
Read Sullivan’s full statement here.
The bipartisan resolution requires “regular meetings of the House Page Board, which oversees the program” and adds “members including a former page and a parent of a current or former page.” The measure is intended to “ensure that current and former teenage pages are no longer vulnerable to improper conduct by lawmakers like former Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla.”
Jon Chait has a great piece on Alan Reynolds’ “research” into inequality, noting that the main point here isn’t to convince anyone that Reynolds is right (the work would need to be less amateurish than that), but simply to convince ordinary people that there’s a big, complicated, confusing controversy among the experts on this subject so who’s to say:
For example, [Reynolds] argues that Piketty and Saez’s data does not account for the massive rise of tax-sheltered pensions, such as 401(k) plans, which are “invisible in tax return data.” Because 401(k) plans are now common among middle-class earners, tax returns miss a huge source of their wealth and thus make them look misleadingly poor. This sounds sensible enough, but it is wrong on several levels. 401(k)s didn’t just appear out of nowhere; they mostly replaced defined benefit pensions. And, like the old pensions, 401(k)s do appear on tax returns when the accounts are withdrawn. On top of that, economists think most taxfavored assets are concentrated in the hands of the rich anyway, so, even if Reynolds were right about tax returns, it would very likely make inequality look even worse.
But whether the missing data would make inequality look worse or better is really beside the point. Reynolds’s role is merely to point out that the data is imperfect. The skeptic challenging the expert consensus must be fluent enough in the language of the experts to nibble away at their data. (The evolution skeptic can find holes in the fossil record; the global-warming skeptic can find periods of global cooling.) But he need not–indeed, he must not–be fluent enough to assimilate all the data himself into a coherent alternative explanation. His point is that the truth is unknowable.
Reynolds also turns out to be what you might call a fake economist. Obviously, there’s a somewhat difficult asymmetry here. If you’re an egalitarian liberal, you’ll want to see the government implement anti-inequality policy insofar as you think a troubling level of inequality actually exists. So I would not, for example, urge Iceland to adopt new anti-inequality policies because Iceland’s income distribution already is highly egalitarian. In the American context, however, new pro-equality policies are needed. Deciding what you want to do, in short, requires you to actually know something about the structure of wealth and income distribution. This, in turn, requires a certain level of analytic caution and modesty that makes it hard to write bombastic screeds on the subject.
Reynolds and his ideological fellow-travelers, by contrast, don’t think we should try to reduce inequality and their commitment to that position is completely independent of their assessment of the empirical facts regarding the extent of inequality. So if Reynolds is getting all his data wrong, nobody on his side is really going to care about that, since, from the right-wing point of view, the question Reynolds is asking doesn’t actually matter except as a tool in public debate.
Yesterday, during Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales claimed there is no express right to habeas corpus in the U.S. Constitution. Gonzales was debating Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) about whether the Supreme Court’s ruling on Guantanamo detainees last year cited the constitutional right to habeas corpus. Gonzales claimed the Court did not cite such a right, then added, “There is no express grant of habeas in the Constitution.”
Specter pushed back. “Wait a minute. The constitution says you can’t take it away, except in the case of rebellion or invasion. Doesn’t that mean you have the right of habeas corpus, unless there is an invasion or rebellion?” Specter told Gonzales, “You may be treading on your interdiction and violating common sense, Mr. Attorney General.” Watch it:
As McJoan noted, the right of habeas corpus is clear in Article I, Section 9, Clause 2 of the Contitution: “The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.”
Full transcript: Read more
“When the Democratic leaders of Congress offer their State of the Union prebuttals at the National Press Club later today, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., plans to challenge for the first time President Bush’s authority to pursue an incursion into Iran without prior congressional approval. ‘This morning, I’d like to be clear,’ Reid plans to say according excerpts of his speech obtained by ABC News, ‘The President does not have the authority to launch military action in Iran without first seeking congressional authorization.’”
As you’re recall, Bush is going to fix the Iraq War by firing George Casey and listening to Fred Kagan instead. Kagan said we should send 50,000 additional troops to Iraq for at least 18 months. Bush agreed. Which is why he’s sending 20,000 troops and now has general Casey saying they’re home by summer. Or, rather, that they “could begin to be withdrawn by late summer” but only “if security conditions improve in Baghdad.” A classic Iraq War formulation. As I recall the baseline occupation force was going to begin withdrawing in late 2003 if security conditions improve. The whole thing has, at this point, become an exceptionally cruel farce. Meanwhile, Iranian efforts to defend their tanks against our airplanes are “offensive” actions that the United States needs to worry about.